Unless you’ve spent a lot of time in Louisiana, you’re probably thinking, “What is lagniappe?” While it may sound like a city in Iceland, lagniappe is a cajun expression that roughly translates as “something extra,” akin to the 13th cookie in a baker’s dozen. It’s when a business person offers a customer something extra they weren’t expecting. I recently heard this expression for the first time at the CFI Convention, during a presentation by motivational speaker Ken Futch, who stressed the difference that a little lagniappe can make in many aspects of life, from business to relationships. Many of us are so focused on the big picture, the bottom line, that we overlook the little things, and those little things can really add up.

I am reminded of an editorial I wrote last year about my experience with a sloppy installer. To recap quickly, in addition to his ragged appearance and battered truck, this installer used my tools and left them scattered all over the patio. Even worse, after removing the washer and dryer from the nook they were bolted into, he left them in the middle of the dining room while the subfloor was being repaired. Because they had been bolted in place for more than 20 years, the backs and sides of the washer and dryer were covered in spider webs. Rather than cleaning them off and covering them, the installer just left them as they were, creating a scene that was more like a haunted house than a job site. Shortly after the editorial ran, I received an angry letter from a reader who accused me of unfairly criticizing the installer.

“Cleaning that washer and dryer was NOT the installer’s job,” the reader chided, “it was your job!” While this reader may be correct that the cleanup in question was not officially part of the installer’s responsibilities, he is clearly forgetting the old maxim that the customer is always right. Although the installation was completed satisfactorily otherwise, the sloppy work habits and bad attitude of this installer left a lot to be desired, so I contacted the property management company and told them they should use a truly professional installer from now on. So, while the installer completed the job and got paid, he probably will miss out on a lot of future work. In this case, a few extra minutes of cleanup time could have yielded referrals instead of a complaint and loss of future work. In short, a little lagniappe can make a big difference!